The original script for the new government was radical reform of education and steady as you go for the NHS. Mr Gove spoke with racy and fervent language of the new schools he wished to allow. Mr Lansley spoke more quietly about the need to have real increases in spending for the good old NHS, year in, year out.
This started to change before the General Election. Suddenly we heard of radical plans afoot to change the NHS after all. Out would go a lot of the national and regional bureaucracy. In would come much more local and GP control. Out would go the Primary care trusts, in would come GPs buying the hospital services their patients needed.
Since the Election the balance has shifted again. Mr Gove knows that the powers of his office are limited to change behaviour. The pace of change of types of school does rightly depend on the pace at which individuals, charities and others wish to set up new schools, and the pace at which existing schools wish to change to Academy status. A long journey begins with one step. Mr Gove never intended to have for profit companies owning or running schools,and never wished to introduce academic selection to more schools. There were always strict limits to the radicalism.
Meanwhile over at Health it looks as if the plans for change are far more wide ranging. All the English NHS will be converted to the GP purchaser model. All over the country PCTs and other Health Boards will be swept away.
Radical is one of those words that is often used as praise. I think myself radical is neutral. Radicalism may be excellent, because it produces a better tomorrow. It may be bad, because it messes up something that was not too bad. My point today is not that one of these Ministers is right and one is wrong, or that radicalism is either good or bad in itself.
The important point is the spin is not the same as reality. It looks, so far, as if the Health policy will be more radical. There is likely to be more fundamental change to the roots of the system, than with the Education policy. When we come to assess how it all works, we need in each case to see if the varying degrees of change were the correct ones for the task in hand, to produce better public service. What does it take to raise standards in all state schools? What will ensure good quality prompt care for all who need NHS treatment? I invite your views.